The walls of Lucca are the second major example in Europe of walls built according to the principles of modern fortification that have been completely preserved in a large city. Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, holds the record with a wall circle of 4.5 km with 11 ramparts and three gates.
The current city walls of Lucca, exactly 4 kilometers and 223 meters long, are the result of the last reconstruction campaign, which started on 7 May 1504 and ended only a century and a half later, in 1648. The works also took place in the second half of the seventeenth century, with structural updates based on new knowledge and construction techniques. Never used for defensive purposes, the modern structure is divided into 12 curtains and 11 bastions. These are seen as a strong sign of cultural identity and as a container for the historical memory of the area.
The walls were also conceived as a deterrent. In particular, the Republic of Lucca feared the expansionist aims first of Florence and, subsequently, of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. However it never came to a real open war against the Grand Duchy. There were conflicts with the Duchy of Modena (16th and 17th centuries), but exclusively in Garfagnana, therefore Lucca never had to undergo any siege. The only occasion in which the walls were put to the test was during the disastrous flood of the Serchio on 18 November 1812. The doors were barred and with the aid of mattresses and straw mattresses a relative watertightness of the center of Lucca was guaranteed . Even Elisa Bonaparte, Princess of Lucca and Piombino, was hoisted up with a sort of rocker arm to enter the city so as not to open the bolted doors to the fury of the waters.
The structure was converted into a pedestrian promenade by Maria Luisa of Bourbon-Spain (in office from 1815 to 1824), in order to play the role of a large public park, above all thanks to its length of over 4 kilometres. The new use of the walls also had repercussions on the external spaces in front, which were converted into huge lawns. The path above the walls is currently used for walking and physical activity, but in the summer it also acts as a natural stage for shows and events.